My Car Quest

September 19, 2021

The First Elvis Presley 507 (1957 BMW 507)

by Wallace Wyss –

 Now here is a story that attempts to separate fact from fiction. Elvis Presley bought a BMW 507. True. His co-star on a film, Swiss star Ursula Andress, was given a BMW 507 by Elvis. Also true.

But the source of endless confusion is that these were two different cars. The one Elvis owned was a former race car driven by German racing legend Hans Stuck. The one he gave Ursula was another 507 he gifted her with after she turned down a Cadillac, saying a Cad “wouldn’t fit her life style” (if, indeed, people actually said that back in 1963…)

The film they worked on together was the 1963 classic Fun in Acapulco. They frolicked on the beach in the film, but we don’t know if the frolicking continued offstage. After all, each of them was at the time already married to someone else! (and we know how strict Hollywood is on fraternizing). After the film, he wanted to give her a memento, and that was BMW 507 No. 70192.

Elvis Presley and Ursula Andress

Elvis Presley and Ursula Andress in Fun in Acapulco

One intrepid reporter following this story earlier had heard Andress’s husband, John Derek, had given her the car, not Elvis. We have to congratulate the reporter for actually calling her up in Rome and finding out that the car had, indeed, come from Elvis. Decades later, it was one of the featured cars at a 2011 RM auction.

The catalog mentioned a few mods done by none other than North Hollywood’s greatest customizer, George Barris, who had put on different bumpers (what you might call hot-rod-style “nerf bars” out on the Coast) and, horrors, Barris plastered her picture all over the dashboard!

The car went to auction without the nerf bars, but the main crime against it—having the 507 engine yanked out and a Ford 289 V-8 stuck in—had been corrected years earlier, when an owner put in a 507 engine with a different number than the car had when new. Fortunately, a later owner acquired the original engine and there are plans to put it back in the car.

Why did the movie star sell the car? Well, because that’s what movie stars do. They often start out poor, hit it big, buy a lot of stuff, and then the time comes when they get so much stuff they have to put it in storage. Sometimes they sell the stuff cheap rather than pay storage. She was lucky she got full value (at that time) for the car, selling it to George Barris for $10,000.

So if you are an Ursula Andress buff, you are happy with that car. But if you are an Elvis buff, you will have to carry the torch for a car owned by Jack Castor, who wrote in Bimmer magazine #63 that he was the car’s owner, and that it had been stored just down the coast from Bimmer HQ for almost 40 years.

Elvis Presley and BMW 507

In that issue, it is explained that the ex-Hans Stuck ex-Elvis car was, indeed, a former race car. Chassis No. 70079 was completed in Munich on September 13, 1957. It then went on display at the 1957 Frankfurt show. Hans Stuck used it to take automotive writers for hair-raising rides, but the racing was real, too. Stuck won three hillclimbs with it in 1958. It was refurbished at BMW toward the end of that year, and on December 12 it was delivered to Autohaus Wirth in Frankfurt, Germany, where it caught the eye of Elvis Aaron Presley, former Tupelo Mississippi truck driver, and, oh, yes, a crooner riding the tidal wave of rock and roll.

The car came to the U.S. in 1960, coincidentally the same year that Elvis returned to the U.S. after a two-year stint in Germany. But while it was presented in New York as “Elvis’s 507,” there’s no hard evidence that Elvis himself imported it, or that he ever drove a 507 on U.S. soil. So all the publicity pictures of Elvis in the car are for naught apparently, if you wanted to use them to establish US ownership. Those were all taken in Germany, mostly while he was wearing his enlisted man’s dress uniform. The car was purchased by radio personality Tommy Charles, who brought it to Alabama and modified it extensively by throwing out the BMW 507 V-8 and stuffing in a Chevy V-8 engine and, oh yes, doing a custom interior.

Not long after, it ended up in the basement of an Atlanta BMW dealership, where a young Air Force pilot named Lloyd Cottle traded a Ferrari GTE and $1,500 for it in 1966. (From our viewpoint 50 years later, this may have been a mistake.) Two years later, Cottle sold it to Jack Castor, its current owner, who drove it for a few years with its Chevy drivetrain. In 1973 Castor took it off the road, hoping to reunite it with a BMW V-8 and the correct transmission.

Elvis 507, Chassis No. 70079, was returned to the Munich plant in July, 2014, following a short stint on display at the BMW Museum. It was scheduled for a two-year restoration on behalf of its American owner and finally shown at Pebble Beach where no doubt some were not aware that it was once property of The King. They could have at least put a teddy bear on the seat, teddy bears was an Elvis “thing.”

BMW 507

Lesson to be learned? Again, celebrities buy cars. Again, celebrities dump cars. Your job is to be there when they lose interest in them, or when the public has forgotten the celebrity and he or she really needs the money. Even though BMW 507s were not exactly sought after compared to their competition at the time, the Mercedes 300SL roadster, the name “Elvis” being tied to this car no doubt helped it avoid the crusher.

Love me tender, El…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss was an Elvis fan but now prefers Clyde McPhatter.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Summary
The First Elvis Presley 507 (1957 BMW 507)
Article Name
The First Elvis Presley 507 (1957 BMW 507)
Description
The BMW 507 came to the U.S. in 1960, coincidentally the same year that Elvis returned to the U.S. after a two-year stint in Germany.
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